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History of U.S. immigration policy (1 of 2)

Anyone who has ever navigated through the complicated and often confusing United States system of immigration laws knows how daunting the task can be. Part of the reason for this is that the immigration system has been altered, expanded and revamped many times over the years.

Therefore, in order to understand the immigration system as it stands today, it's important to understand the events that have shaped it over time. Recently, ABC News featured an interesting article that highlighted "23 defining moments" that have made the immigration system what it is today. In this post and the next, we will discuss many of the significant landmarks compiled by ABC News.

The Naturalization Act of 1790 - Naturalization was restricted to "free white persons." It wasn't until 1952 that these race-based restrictions on naturalization were completely removed.

The Rise of the Know Nothings (1850) - The "Know Nothings" was the nation's first anti-immigration group that made an impact politically. Before the group collapsed in 1855, group members won political seats across the country and controlled the Massachusetts legislature.

The 14th Amendment (1868) - This amendment stated that everyone born in the United States was automatically a United States citizen. Two years later, the Naturalization Act of 1790 was also extended to allow naturalization of people of African descent, but Asians were still not included.

Page Act (1875) - This Act prohibited certain immigrants from entering the United States who were considered to be undesirable, including Chinese laborers and Chinese women who supposedly exchanged sex for money.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) - This Act effectively banned immigration from all Asian nations for several decades.

Luckily, immigration policy in the United States didn't stop there. As we all know, a lot has happened in the past two centuries that have afforded immigration rights to people throughout the globe. Check back later this week to learn how United States immigration policy came to be what it is today.

Source: ABC News, "23 Defining Moments in Immigration Policy History," Ted Hesson, Nov. 27, 2012

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